900 Schools Seek State Funding For Police Officers, Counselors, Social Workers

By Mariana Dale
Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - 5:52pm
Mariana Dale/KJZZ
The police officer parking spot at Wilson Elementary School in Phoenix. The school hasn't had a resource officer since the year before last after it got waitlisted for the School Safety Program.

Almost 900 schools have applied for money from the state to hire police officers, social workers and counselors.

Arizona’s existing school safety program already pays for 114 schools to employ school resource officers.

This year, the state Legislature expanded the program with an additional $20 million and changed the program to include mental health professionals too.

Of the 896 schools that applied, about 82% were district schools and 18% were charter schools.

The existing funding will not cover all these schools.

The Arizona Department of Education previously estimated the $20 million additional funding could pay for 86 waitlisted schools to hire a police officer and for about 200 schools to hire a counselor or social worker.

In August, Department spokesman Stefan Swiat said if there were more applications than funding, awards would be recommended for schools with the lowest A-F ranking first.

The State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on which schools receive funding at its Oct. 28 meeting and those schools would begin hiring by the end of 2019.

One of the schools that applied for funding is Wilson Elementary near downtown Phoenix. The school of about 650 students had a resource officer for about 20 years before it was waitlisted in the last round of school safety program funding.

Principal Cindy Campton tried to pay for a school resource officer through crowdfunding last year, but couldn’t raise enough money. She told KJZZ in July that students and community members felt comfortable talking to the police officer on campus.

"It changes the whole dynamic of your campus," Campton said. "Just having a police car out front and an officer present just makes everybody more accountable."

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